Axed championship splits Aussie game
By RUPERT GUINNESS - SMH | Thursday, 20 December 2007
Axed championship splits Aussie game - Rugby news & coverage -

The divide between the Australian Rugby Union and the players' association has widened, with the national governing body rejecting a request for a stay of execution for the Australian Rugby Championship.

Following the outcry from players over the ARC's axing on Tuesday, the Rugby Union Players' Association asked the ARU to put off deciding on the ARC's fate until after a three-month review of the game in the new year.

But in a statement last night, the ARU said it would not budge on its decision and that it was "disappointed" the RUPA "has not joined other stakeholders in understanding the responsible reasons" behind the decision.

In terminating the ARC, the ARU cited a loss of $4.7 million that was "more than $2 million over the budgeted investment".

It also forecast a further $3.3 million loss had the ARC continued next year - an $8 million loss over two years.

The ARU has said that an interim third-tier competition could still be held next year, but it would be less "grandiose" than the eight-team tournament held this year.

However, one of the aims of the review into all aspects of the game next year would be to create a financially viable competition to replace the ARC permanently from 2009.

Before receiving the ARU's response, RUPA chief executive Tony Dempsey said the failure of the national union to heed its request to consider how the ARC budget could still be cut would "polarise" all rugby stakeholders.

"The players have already indicated they are prepared to consider reviewing player salaries for the ARC," Dempsey said.

"We would envisage other key stakeholders might also be able to consider some rationalisation. Terminating the ARC now would be hasty and not give Australia's stakeholders time to assess the rationalisation opportunities.

"It is important we go through this step to avoid polarising even further the stakeholders of this game."

However, the ARU has rejected that suggestion and that, by axing the ARC, it was ignoring the need to improve the pathways for players, coaches and referees into the professional game and expand the game nationally.

"We have already said we will be conducting a review in the new year on the structure of the game," said ARU deputy chief executive Matt Carroll, who added that the RUPA would still be involved in that review.

"But the ARU board resolved that the ARC was an untenable financial risk. As we have already stated, this decision was fiscally responsible. There can be no denying that reality."